Even the bills that they were allowed to send to parliament as part of the coalition agreement; House of Lords and voting system reform; were watered down and bombed out in a commons vote. In October, a long awaited Home Office report could have changed the way that future generations look back on this government and the way that Nick Clegg goes down in history.
Lib Dem MP Lynne Featherstone spent a year looking at how other countries tackle drug use and came to the conclusion that most sociologists already know. Prohibition doesn’t reduce drug use. At the time, we thought that this report could pave the way for one of the most progressive pieces of legislation that a Tory government has ever produced. After all, there is even a strong right-of-centre argument for legalisation on the grounds of personal liberty and freedom. The Conservative party has even had various think tanks on the issue over the years.
Instead, the right wing tabloid media sensationalised the story and the Tories soon pulled the plug on Nick’s wee project for fear of losing even more traditional Tory votes to UKIP. David Cameron defiantly announced that he “doesn’t want to send a message to kids that taking drugs is acceptable”. Thus reassuring the middle/upper classes, who don’t typically have problems with illegal drugs, that he was a reliable dinosaur that they could put their faith and money into.
Did the Prime Minister read Mrs. Featherstone’s report? If he did then he would have found out that it doesn’t really matter what message an Oxbridge toff broadcasts into the schemes of urban Britain, cannabis and harder drugs are readily available and generation after generation will turn to them to try and escape from the poverty created by his neoliberal agenda.
The Home Office report examined cases of cannabis decriminalisation, which are becoming more frequent every year in every continent. The report found that it can take the supply and profit out of the hands of gangs and into a taxable process, reducing crime which is often seen as the most dangerous part of the cannabis trade.
Age restrictions can also be implemented on the purchase of a plant that world leaders (including our very own Mr Cameron) have admitted to using in their youth and is far less damaging on your health than alcohol and tobacco.
Harder drugs like heroin are very different; there is no doubt that they are very had for your mental and physical health. However, making the users criminals is counter-productive and unfair. Addicts are victims. Victims of a failed society and governments who have let them down for generations.
The report examined the Swiss solution to spiralling heroin and cocaine use in the country, for the state to provide heroin to addicts in state run facilities. The study found that treating heroin like a medical, not a criminal, issue made it easier to treat and fight the addiction.
Addicts were using clean needles, not having to steal to fund their habits, surrounded by healthcare professionals and provided a safe place to live while they got better. This method works in Switzerland and other countries where it has been tested in reducing heroin consumption.
The lesson that the British political class should have learned from this report is that we are decades behind the rest of the world and our outdated approach to social problems is counter-productive and costing the lives of the poorest and most vulnerable in our society.
It shows that progressive thinking and compassion are more effective than hounding and locking up people who should be treated as victims. Should we expect anything else from our out of touch government of millionaires who have no idea what really goes on in their country?